Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Theresa May Signs the UK's Economic Suicide Note

Earlier today, the UK's diplomatic representative to the European Union, hand delivered a letter signed by British Prime Minister Theresa May formally invoking Article 50 of the EU treaty. Article 50 handles the terms by which a member state of the EU can leave the Union.

The letter is six pages long and is a very diplomatically worded mixture of flattery and threats. Politico has an excellent interactive guide the letter and what the various passages may or may not mean. You can check it out for yourself by clicking here.

The UK media has predictably fallen to three different camps in terms of their coverage of today's events. More right leaning outlets have hailed a return to British Sovereignty, more left leaning media have sounded dire warnings about threats the National Health Service, Social Care programs, Worker and Environmental protections, and the as of yet unresolved issues surrounding the rights and status of EU Citizens currently living in the UK.

The more centrist media have chosen the hedge their bets. Sounding "concerned" about potential impact this will have on the UK economy and Britain's standing the world. While simultaneously making pointed commentary of how the EU and the UK both need each other. so .... somebody better figure out how to make this thing actually work.

The fact that nobody wants to point out is, the current Tory government of Theresa May has no plan   They have never had a plan for making this work.   They are making this up as they go along. The reasons for that are not hard to understand.   The previous government under David Cameron had a master plan.  Call for a referendum,  then back  a Leave campaign that would narrowly lose.  Then call a general election  and win under a platform of  "Healing  the rift" in the country they made.  All while promising that the near miss of almost leaving  would give them leverage to negotiate new and better terms  for the UK with the rest of the EU.

It was going to be great! they could still whine and moan about "the overreach of the EU" but not have to actually leave it.  Thus having their Euro-cake and getting  to  complain while eating it.   It was a cunning plan Black Adder!, The Tories would get to stay in power, steal the thunder and  the key issue of right wing parties like the UK Independence Party, (UKIP)  all while keeping their faux Anti- EU bona fides intact.

 Ah... the best laid plans of Mice and ... well morons. When the dust settled after the vote, it turned out that the same anti-migrant hordes the leave campaign  had spent weeks stirring up into a rabid racist frenzy, went and actually voted, and voted to leave.

That result torpedoed the Tory master plan. Not wanting to be the one to clean up the mess he and his party made,   David Cameron beat a very hasty resignation retreat.

 His accomplice in this farce,  former London Mayor and now  MP Boris Johnson, also quickly figured out that if he was Prime Minister, he would either have to admit to the grand pandering lie, and stop Brexit , or be the one who gets the blame when it wreaks economic havoc on the UK economy.

Enter,  Theresa May. 

As the UK Home Secretary, May was all for the " Let's pretend we want to leave, but then don't" plan. So much so that she was seen wishy washy and even too pro-remain by many Brexit campaigners.    But when both David Con Man and BoJo the Clown, exited stage far right,  May saw her chance for Thatcher-esque greatness, and well.... here we are.   It is interesting to note, that hard core "Brexiteers" have more in common with hard core Donald Trump voters than just their blatant racism, sexism and xenophobia. They also share a similar level of sheer stupidity.

The Brexit  cheerleaders both in and out of government, love to  claim that  the EU needs the UK much more than vice-versa,  and how  like Thatcher reborn,  Prime Minister May will ride her Brexit tank into the Article 50  negotiations.  There she will dictate to the trebling, feeble EU the terms by which the UK gets to enjoy the trade and economic benefits of the common market, and at the same time  keep all those icky immigrants out. 

Like Trump voters claiming he won the popular vote,  Brexiteers have also decided to blissfully ignore one huge bit of reality.   It is not in the EU's interest to strike a deal with the UK.   Quite the contrary in fact.  It is far more in the interest of the EU to make leaving  the union as painful as possible.   Thus sending a clear message to fledgling right wing anti EU movements in other member states, that leaving would  be hard,  painful and  ultimately economically self destructive.

Would a "Hard Brexit" (one with out an amicable trade deal) hurt the EU? Yes, a bit. German automakers would likely end up facing UK tariffs as would other industries based on the continent. But there is unanimity in the EU Leadership that the costs of lost trade deals with the UK is a small, even an inconsequential price to pay, to keep the rest of the EU intact.

As if to underscore that point, German Chancellor Angela Merkel dealt an instant blow to Theresa May by rejecting the PM's bid for trade talks to take place at the same time as Article 50 secession negotiations. Britain will be put into the slow lane for discussions about any future trade deal with the EU following actions by the German Chancellor, who intervened just hours after the UK invoked Article 50.

One of the lasting legacies of the Thatcher era is transformation  of the UK from a manufacturing economy into a services economy.   The Iron Lady crushed the trade unions by pushing forward the process that eliminated the factories, mines and mills that employed their members, while enacting tax and banking de-regulation that turned London into a global financial services hub, second only to,  (and some would say even surpassing)  New York.

Underneath all the  cautiously optimistic  statements by the likes of  HSBC,  Merrill Lynch, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, etc.,   are quiet plans behind the scenes to move  operations, and  with it, massive numbers of jobs to places like Frankfurt,  Paris,  Geneva,  Hong Kong, Singapore and the UAE.   All of whom are eager to welcome Canary Wharf's  "Brexit refugees"  with open arms.   The Banking  goose that lays the biggest golden egg keeping the British Pound not only afloat, but relevant,  is  getting ready to the fly to coop.

And yes,  I could be  totally wrong.  Brexit may turn out to be a big nothing burger and the UK after a brief period of adjustment related economic instability  emerges  triumphant and resurgent.    I wonder how many people would truly be willing to bet their jobs, their livelihoods,  their short, mid and long term financial security on that?

Because that is exactly what  Theresa May did today.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Dear Trump Voters. We hate to tell you this... But,

You are all incredibly  sssstttuu.......   Well okay,  let's  put this way:

After 7 years  and  more than  60 votes to get rid of the Affordable Care Act,  the  GOP finally  had its moment.   They control the White House,  they control the House of Representatives, AND they control the Senate.    They have had SEVEN YEARS  to  carefully and exhaustively  craft the  "tremendous" replacement for the ACA they swore was coming on DAY ONE  when they finally got  into power.

Shockingly enough,  it turns out  the GOP is far better at  bitching about other people governing than actually doing any sort of governing themselves.   So much so,  that they have even caused  FOX News to say  WTF!?

Lets be  clear about what happened  yesterday.    The GOP health care plan had nothing to do with health care.  The Ryan/Trump/whateverthehellyoucallit  plan  was  a Trojan horse to do two things; First,   give massive tax cuts to the top 2% of the US economic ladder, and to pay for it by TAKING AWAY health insurance from 24 MILLION AMERICANS.  

Second,  it was a ticking time bomb set to  DESTROY MEDICARE by turning it into a capped  block grant program that  wouldn't be able to cover the needed numbers of recipients even  in the first year.  Then it would require denying benefits to more and more people every year after. It is a move purposely designed to kill the entire Medicare program.

But  the good news is,   it is clear Trump, Ryan  and the rest of the Congressional Republicans  were not able to find their own asses with both hands.  The "tremendous negotiator"  had no idea  how a bill becomes law.  let alone how to move a legislative priority through congress.  So he  deferred to  House Speaker Paul Ryan,  a  man who truly hates poor people and  hates any program designed to help poor people,  even more.

The hard  truth about Paul Ryan is this;  He is not a leader.  Not in any way shape or form, he was the default choice for Speaker of the House as he was the only Republican not visibly crazy, who was willing to take the job.

As Speaker of the House,  Paul Ryan was  completely unable to lead  the Republicans in Congress in any cohesive, collective way.   The Ryan Trojan Horse  was  too cruel  for moderate Republicans  and not cruel enough for  the "Freedom Caucus" (aka, the wing nuts formerly known as the Tea Party).

So  at the end of the day when the whole thing blew up in their faces, what did  President Trump do?  He blamed the Democrats, and  told a stream of more easily debunked lies about  the ACA  of course.   To the point where even  Republicans on  cable news panels were embarrassed.

Meanwhile  in addition to yesterday's signature legislative failure, that whole  Russia thing clearly  isn't going away anytime soon, and... and... and....

So Trump Voters,  how is that cheaper, better health insurance and all those new coal mining jobs working out for you ?

If you voted for Donald Trump you either are a White Supremacist, or  just plain stupid.

Take Your Pick.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

London will not be Terrorized....

Video: Jason Hawkes 
Music: Jack Cook
"Composed upon Westminster Bridge" by William Wordsworth, read by Sir Ian McKellen.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Republican Heathcare Déjà vu….

After 6 years and more than 60 votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Republicans have FINALLY released their “replacement” for the ACA. We don’t know how many people it will cover, and we have no idea how much it will cost. CNBC did some basic number crunching and the results we not good. To the tune of $600 Billion of not good…
Here is what we DO know about it. (Courtesy of Poltifact):

The requirement to buy insurance goes away. People will no longer be fined on their tax returns if they lack insurance under the plan. Large companies will no longer have to pay penalties for not offering insurance.

There are still tax credits for people to buy insurance. The plan includes an "advance-able" tax credit, based on age and families size, which people can use to buy insurance. Whether it’s as bigger or smaller than Obamacare will depend on specific circumstances. The plan’s advocates say the credit will be between $2,000 and $14,000 a year "for low- and middle-income individuals and families who don’t receive insurance through work or a government program."

Insurers still have to cover pre-existing conditions, but they will be able to charge more for people who are recently uninsured. The plan allows insurance companies to charge higher rates if a person has a significant lapse in coverage. Higher rates will be charged if a person was uninsured for 63 continuous days during the previous 12 months.

Insurance plans don't have to cover all care; catastrophic policies will be allowed again. The Obama administration required insurance companies to cover basic care without exclusions; they called it "essential health benefits." The GOP plan has allows for more limited policies and policies that kick in in cases of major illness or injury.

Adult children and college students can stay on their parents’ plans. As under Obamacare, children will be able to stay on their parents’ health insurance until they turn 26.

Medicaid will eventually be reduced, but it might expand first. The Medicaid expansion remains at first but new enrollment freezes in 2020. Other limitations will also be applied to the program.

The taxes from the 2010 health care law will be repealed. That includes taxes on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, health-insurance premiums and medical devices. As for how the plan will be paid for, an explanation on the House GOP website says, "We are still discussing details, but we are committed to repealing Obamacare and replacing it with fiscally responsible policies that restore the free market and protect taxpayers."

Also there are some amazing tax cuts and tax breaks for very very wealthy people and corporations in this plan. The Washington Post breaks it down:

Republicans' new health-care bill is a mass transfer of income that cuts taxes for the wealthiest Americans while cutting federal benefits for the middle and working class. Just two provisions in the Republican plan would allow the richest households to pay an average of nearly $200,000 less under the GOP plan, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

For the lower-middle class, the plan would replace the current system of benefits based on income with a new system based on age. As a result, a young person making less money would get less help to buy insurance than an older person who is making more.

Republican proponents of the bill argue that by eliminating regulations on health insurance, their legislation will reduce the price of coverage for the middle class, making up for the financial pain of reduced government support. Some experts, however, are skeptical that the plan will work as intended.

Then we have my personal favorite , a designated tax break for health insurance executives who earn more than half a million dollars a year. No, I’m not kidding, and neither is the GOP: (CNN Money Reports)  

The bill would roll back a provision of the 2010 Obamacare law that placed a $500,000 limit on deductions for each executive's compensation, according to a summary from the staff of the House Ways and Means committee.  

Five major insurers paid their CEO's $73 million in 2015, the most recent year for which pay has been reported. Only $2.5 million of that was deductible under Obamacare tax laws. But more than $70 million of that would be deductible under the proposed Republican legislation

To fully understand it you have to decode the GOP’s own talking points on Health Care. The Republicans have consistently said they believe all Americans should have “guaranteed access” to health coverage. It is critical to understand that by guaranteed access, the GOP does NOT, mean equal access. They mean Americans should have access to all the health coverage and care that they can afford, and ONLY to what they can afford.

Lets set aside the fact that this bill is the first salvo the GOP’s cherished long march to finally kill Medicare, by choking it off with capped block grants to states that will never fully cover the costs. We can have that debate another time. This is about the fundamental core philosophy of the Republicans when it comes to Health Care for Americans.

At the very core of the Republican Party’s philosophy and approach is Economic Darwinism – Survival of the Richest. If you are too poor to afford health care, that is entirely YOUR problem NOT the Government’s. Utah Senator Jason Chaffetz truly believes the reason poor people can’t afford health care is they are spending their money on new IPhones instead...   Seriously…

Not only does the Senator show exactly what kind of human being he is, (terrible) he clearly demonstrates how when it comes to basic market capitalism,  he and his fellow Republicans are total morons. Idiots. Dumb as a box of hair.  Stupid to the point of being a threat to themselves and others. Here’s why.

What are core drivers in any capitalist economy? Supply and Demand. When supply of any goods or service is greater than the demand, the price falls. Likewise, when demand exceeds supply the price goes up. Basic High School Economics, right?  Which brings us to the GOP’s second most beloved talking point. “Increased Competition will lower costs for everyone!”

A nifty sound byte, but totally divorced for the reality of Health Care. Competition only lowers cost when it impacts the gap between supply and demand. But in the case of health care, that will never happen. Demand for health care will ALWAYS far outpace the supply, and the differential between supply and demand will never shift towards supply. Why? Because the population grows instead of shrinks.  

Left solely to market forces, prices will never fall but instead, will keep going up forever. This is why most every other industrialized nation has some variation of a public/single payer option.

Republicans  should be honest and call their approach what it really is; Survival of the richest. Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and their ilk, screamed of  health care rationing under the ACA, when in fact, that is exactly what the GOP replacement IS. Rationing of care based on income. If you believe that is a good thing, fine. But be honest and answer the core question;  How many people will have to be denied coverage and care for your plan to work?

Because that IS what the GOP has proposed. For a predominantly Market/Competition based plan to work and sustain itself, it must take in more money in premiums than it pays out in benefits. For that to happen in a market where growth of demand exponentially outpaces supply…. You will HAVE TO deny coverage to some people to sustain the system. 

So, Mitch? Paul? Who’s it going be?    Who gets to die for sake of your economic ideology?

The core question that America must answer, the question that most every other western industrialized nation answered for themselves decades ago is this;  Is health care a commodity that people should have access to based on their ability to pay for it? Or, is health care an obligation of a civilized and compassionate society, to ensure people can get,  when and how they need it?

Yesterday the GOP gave us their answer. In their world, death by Poverty is just another “natural cause”.